Channel cats have among the most sophisticated senses of smell and taste in the fish world. Because their eyes are so small, they rely almost exclusively on their highly developed olfactory senses, especially in dark, muddy water.
Anglers often use overly ripe bait, thinking it will help the fish find it. That won’t work, however, because channel cats disdain sour or tainted bait.
Unlike their relatives in the catfish family, they prefer their meals to be fresh. So always use fresh or recently thawed chunks of sucker, ciscoe, goldeye, squid, shrimp or leopard frogs. If the bait smells off to you, it will to the cats, too.